Friday, January 14, 2005

The Return of History Friday

With all the chaos surrounding the end of the year, I feel I have been neglecting my regular duties and failing in my remit to provide education and erudition. let nation speak peace unto nation and so on. So it is with a glad heart I announce the return of History Friday.

January 14:
Happy Birthday to Stephen Soderbergh, Andy Rooney, and Mrs. Weasel's ancestor Benedict Arnold. Mrs. Weasel's family also claims descent from Jefferson Davis, giving her the perhaps unique distinction of being preceded by two of America's least popular historical figures. It must be like being Malee Pot. Did I just compare my lovely and fragrant girlfriend to the daughter of a Cambodian mass murdering dictator? Surely not.

The Birth of the Ponzi Scheme

"For 20 years, Ponzi bounced from job to job, always dreaming up a way to make millions but never coming close. But in 1919, he came up with a new plan. Ponzi told friends and potential investors that they would get a 50 percent return on their money within three months if they invested with him. The hapless investors were never told much about what Ponzi planned on doing with their money, but, when pressed, he told them that it had to do with international postal exchange coupons, an obscure field that virtually no one knew much about......

Such a scam, known as a pyramid scheme, inevitably explodes, as it did on August 13, 1920, when thousands of investors demanded their money back. Ponzi, anticipating the collapse, had already taken $2 million to the Saratoga casinos in a vain attempt to make up the lost money. Ponzi went to jail and was deported to Italy in 1934. He told reporters, "I hope the world forgives me."

Perhaps taken in by his apparent contrition, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini gave Ponzi a high position in the government's financial sector. However, human nature is very difficult to change, and Ponzi eventually embezzled funds from the country's treasury and escaped to Brazil, where he died in 1949...."

These days this kind of scam is known as Social Security Reform.

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